Debt crisis casts doubt on future of church in Oldpark

QUESTION MARK: Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Deanby QUESTION MARK: Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Deanby
By Evan Short

A LANDMARK North Belfast church could close for good after it was revealed Sacred Heart parish is over a million pounds in debt.
Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Deanby, has seen its future cast into doubt after a survey revealed it needs over 700k worth of repairs to remain open.
But according to Parish Priest Fr Darach Mac Giolla Catháin, the parish cannot afford to push itself further into the red so they are having to look at shutting its doors for good.
Speaking to parishoners at the weekend, Fr Mac Giolla Catháin said the parish found itself in a difficult position.
“The bottom line is that in order to complete the necessary repairs it is going to cost us something in the region of £721,479,” he said.
“I appreciate that will come as a shock to many of you. It is also important to understand that our current debt is £1.3 million, therefore these costs would put our total debt to over £2 million.”
He said they were left with three options: to do nothing and let the church deteriorate; to carry our repairs; or close its doors for good.
Fr Mac Giolla Catháin said the parish would welcome suggestions from the congregation, but warned time is not on their side.
“We need to give urgent and serious consideration to addressing these issues. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of a long time to consider these matters. So I would therefore ask you to prayerfully reflect on the matters I have raised today and there will be an opportunity to continue this consultation over the next few weeks as I hear your views on this matter. Either way, this will not be easy, but may the Lord guide.”
Local Sinn Féin Councillor Mary Clarke said there was a great deal of concern in the area at the news.
“This news has come as a shock to many within the parish and local people have voiced their concern to me that the decision to close Our Lady’s has already been made at some level,” she said.
“Clearly there are challenges as to how the future finances of the parish are managed but it is a concern that the chapel has been allowed to deteriorate to such a poor state of repair.
“This community holds Deanby chapel very close to its heart, so many important events in a family life take place at the local chapel and memories of baptisms, weddings and funerals are associated with this chapel for local people.
“This is no reflection on the priests of the parish who are now left with a huge task to find a resolution to the current problems, including conducting a consultation about the way forward.
“Unfortunately for those people who have approached me this week there is a feeling of sadness and a sense that the future of Deanby chapel has been decided at a higher level than this parish.”

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